30 April 2010

Touched by an angel. Named Decorno.

I feel like I've been touched by an angel. While I was out of town, Decorno herself left a comment after my post She's Gone. Considering that she's retired from her role as the good witch of Bloglandia, this is either a visit from beyond the grave or a heavenly visitation. I'll chose the latter for now.
Aw, thank you, Paul. You were always a big supporter, and I really do appreciate it.

Again, thanks for the yucks and the inspiration Elaine.


Coverings highlights day two

I got home late and I have a photo shoot in an hour. Here are some more photos I tweeted during the day yesterday. I'll explain plenty about all of this in the coming days. Coverings had some real gems, I'll say that.

Drop dead gorgeous new stuff from New Ravenna.

Grafitti tile. It was neat and it sure beats grafitti china.

A smooth Italian crosses the street at the end of Coverings.

29 April 2010

Highlights form Coverings yesterday

So I did manage to get internet access this morning after all. Here are some of the images I popped up onto Twitter yesterday from the floor at Coverings. If you are a Twitterer, please follow me at @Paul_Anater and if you aren't a Twitterer you'd better start. Here are those highlights. These are iPhone shots, so excuse their lack of sharpness. I'll 'splain everything later.

This is a row of quartzite closet doors.

Thankfully, the convention center has lots of these.

I'm at Coverings

Bet you didn't know it but I was at a trade show yesterday. I'm at the same one today. The trade show is Coverings and it's an chance for the worldwide tile industry to show off its wares and celebrate their art. Sound boring? Believe me it's not. This show is a cross between an art installation and a runway show. If my posting's a little spotty today and tomorrow, that's why. I'm off taking photographs of beautiful things to write about later. I suppose I'll be practicing my Italian too. Avanti!

28 April 2010

Elmira's Northstar series is now available in 10 colors

I've long been an admirer of Elmira Stoveworks' Northstar series of retro appliances. I've always thought they had a cool factor to them, but it's recently come to my attention that they are no mere novelty item.

Elmira's been at it since the early '70s in Elmira, Ontario. They know what they're doing and any company that can build a fully-functional, wood-burning cookstove in 2010 is OK in my book. I'll get into to their 1800s reproduction stoves in a later post. For now, I want to let you know that the Northstar series of mid-century-inspired appliances are now available in ten colors. Imagine, you can have a Candy Red, Buttercup Yellow, Robin’s Egg Blue, Flamingo Pink, Quicksilver, Mint Green, Bisque, Black or White suite. Sweet!

They're Energy Star-rated and they even have a custom color program.

So even though there's no such thing as timeless kitchen design, classics like these are always welcome. Check out Elmira Stoveworks' website for more info.

Thank you Making it Lovely and her lovely reader Lindsay

Yesterday, the design blog Making it Lovely ran a story about urban chickenkeeping. She took the opposite tack I did when I wrote the definitive blog post on the subject last month.

Anyhow, in the middle of the doe-eyed do-gooding going on in her comments section. Seriously, I don't think the word "cute" has had that kind of a workout since this nightmare debuted. Go ahead, click that link. I dare you.

Where was I? Oh yeah, in the middle of all that squealing and swooning, a reader named Lindsay linked to my definitive blogpost on urban chickenry. It did no good because the swoons and squeals continued unabated. However, what it did do was make my traffic go off the charts. I love it when that happens. I had no idea that Making it Lovely (a perfectly wonderful and worthwhile blog even if we don't see eye to eye on this chicken thing) pulled those kind of numbers. Brava! So thanks for letting me bask in your glow for a few hours and welcome everybody who's clicking through here. You'll find no cute or mindless pablum. What you will find however, are the coolest commenters on the internet. Stick around.

Oh and Lindsay is none other than Lindsay Christiansen, whose Likely Design holds one of the most attractive Wordpress themes I've ever seen. Lindsay's a designer/ blogger who does virtual design and she deserves a round of applause.

27 April 2010

Let's talk about bad trends

Like Totally '80s

I've been talking a a lot lately about bad trends. Bad trends in interiors that is. A reporter asked me to rattle off some examples of what I consider to be bad trends last week and I rattled off about 10 things without really thinking about it.

It started me thinking. What makes a bad trend? And is there really such a thing?

Hey kids! Let's make our character-less McMansion look like
a one room schoolhouse!

Well, yes there is such a thing as a bad trend. It's usually not the trend though, it's almost always the expression of the trend.

Duck, dodge and cover.

Timelessness is a myth. It is impossible to create a room or a home today and have it be anything but right now. You can do a revival. There's a Belgian revival and an Edwardian revival going on right now, but each of those things is a 2010 interpretation of those eras. Exact replicas would be unlivable. How do you put surround sound in an authentic, old Belgian living room? Where do you put two dishwashers and a wine chiller in an Edwardian kitchen?

Up, up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon.

Times change, people change, life changes. That's a good thing.

I feel like I'm in a palazzo right on the Grand Canal.

So what can you do to keep a room or a home from looking dated? Well, I say there's nothing you can do to keep a room from looking dated. The key is to make it look good as it ages.

It's a tabletop fountain!

I say that it's not the trend itself, it's the execution. The problem's not that turquoise has been proclaimed the It color of 2010, it's uninspired turquoise paint jobs.

It's the color of the year so it has to look good. Right?

The problem's not faux finishes, it's faux finishes devoid of logic, context or skill.

The only l'oeil being trompe-d here is the one belonging to the poor soul
who paid for this mess.

What do you think? In looking over the interwebs and the design press (what's left of it) today, what's a bad trend? Is there anything to my idea about it being a matter of execution or are there some things that are just bad trends?

Somebody knows how to use an orbital sander.

A troika of bad taste --Baltic Brown granite, commodity tumbled marble tile and honey oak cabinetry. Wait, there's a wall plaque with some pablum written on it. What's Russian for a collection of four?

26 April 2010

Wood Flooring: help an author out

I received an e-mail from Charlie Peterson this morning. Charlie's the author of Wood Flooring: A Complete Guide to Layout, Installation & Finishing from Taunton Press. He thanked me for reviewing his book and then he went on to tell me that the 330 pages of the book as it stands was whittled down from the 5200 pages he'd written originally. That's quite an editing job and I'm sure a lot of his ideas, tips and pointers were left on the cutting room floor.

Charlie asked me if I thought there were any way to make his book more useful. I'm flattered to asked that by someone of his stature and skill and even though most of you haven't read his book, I'm going to turn around redirect his question to you guys. In more general terms of course.

He'll see this post and so now let's play a game of focus group. If you're reading this blog that means you're interested in home design or construction in some capacity. As such, you're a target for books like Charlie's wood floor guide.

So when you're poking around in a bookstore, what do you look for in a design, architecture or construction book? Is it more important to be a coffee table book? You know, one brimming with beautiful photos of what's possible and little else?

Or do you look for something more practical and text heavy?

Is it possible to be both? Is it worth it to try to be both?

How do you like you how-to information? Is it more important to inspire or is it better to instruct?

In the meantime, I'm still reeling from the floor in the photo above. I cannot believe that it's a wood floor that he made. That's some skill.

Wood Flooring: A Complete Guide to Layout, Installation & Finishing

Wood Flooring: A Complete Guide to Layout, Installation & Finishing

I have been on a serious wood floor kick lately and in a move that makes me think they can read my mind, the great folks at Taunton Press sent me a review copy of Wood Flooring: A Complete Guide to Layout, Installation & Finishing by Charles Peterson with Andy Engel. And wow what a book. Between Peterson's book and the accompanying 60-minute DVD, it would be safe to call this the definitive guide to all things wood floor.

Peterson holds a degree in engineering and has a 30-year history in the wood flooring business. He's a master craftsman and the owner of CP Hardwood Floors in Gales Ferry, CT. That's Peterson on one of his floors below.

Photo by Randy O'Rourke

He made that floor himself and it was named 2009's Floor of the Year Award from the National Wood Flooring Association. If you need further proof of his expertise stop reading now. Wow!

©Tom Hopkins Studio

It's brimming with gorgeous photographs of course, this is a Taunton project after all. Beyond the coffee table qualities of Peterson's new book, it's also a thorough guide for professionals. Peterson starts from square one in his book with a basic lumber review. He progresses through instructive chapters on jobsite preparation, installing subfloors and then a thorough guide to installing both plank and engineered wood floors.

With the basics out of the way, Peterson then branches out into parquet, inlay, marquetry, borders, aprons and medallions. The work he shows is his own primarily and it's inspiring to see someone so dedicated to his craft.

©Tom Hopkins Studio

After all the eye candy in the middle of the book, he then moves onto chapters on sanding, finishing and then wraps up everything with a chapter devoted to problems and solutions.

©Tom Hopkins Studio

If you have a need to a good reference guide to wood floors, this is it. Interestingly enough, it's also a terrific inspiration guide and a fitting addition to my design library. That is a difficult balancing act to pull off and Peterson does it with grace and skill.

©Tom Hopkins Studio

You can order a copy of Wood Flooring: A Complete Guide to Layout, Installation & Finishing by Charles Peterson with Andy Engel through Taunton's website.

25 April 2010

She's gone

The title of her post today was The End.

And with that, my bloggery role model posted her last post. Oh Decorno, the blogosphere won't be the same without you but I understand and can almost relate to your wanting to call it a day.

Decorno picked up one of my posts a year-and-a-half ago and it made me --my traffic doubled overnight. Decorno enlightened, mocked, rejoiced and above all never took design too seriously. So now where will I go to find a profanity-laden, hilarious take on the world of design?

Hey Modern Sauce, a niche just opened up for you.

American Gothic explained and renovated

As many of you know, I was in Chicago last weekend for my industry's big trade show and conference, KBIS. As many of you know too, I was there to do three presentations a day on the subject of Google SketchUp. There were five of us presenting topics related to technology and the kitchen and bath business and we were sponsored by Kraftmaid Cabinetry. Our presentations were considered to be continuing education and we were awarding CEUs, so this was pretty serious business. My fellow presenters were Mark Johnson, the Director of Sales + Marketing for Kraftmaid; Bart Frost, the Manager of Sales Training at Kraftmaid; Eric Schimelpfenig, a designer with his own training company called Sketch This!; Alex Oliver, the CEO of Igloo Studios and me. Thank you fellas, thank you Google and above all thank you Kraftmaid. Last weekend's presentations were a rollicking success by any measure.

I did a sneak peak at one of my presentations before I left called Help Me Grant Wood. Well, it wasn't so much a sneak peek as it was a lot of chest beating because I was worried that I'd painted myself into a corner. I wanted to tell a story first and foremost. I also wanted the technology I was using to support my story, not be my story and I think I did pretty well. Enough people have asked, so I'm going to recreate what I did here. Imagine this as a multimedia extravaganza with flashing lights, roaring crowds and me in a Madonna headset at center stage.

My story starts with Grant Wood's iconic painting, American Gothic.

American Gothic debuted in 1930 when it won a contest at the Art Institute of Chicago. The judges hated it, the critics hated it and it won because a wealthy patron of the Art Insitute loved it. Needless to say, it went on to become one of the world's most iconic images.

The house in the background of that painting is a real house and it still stands in Eldon, Iowa. The woman is Wood's sister Nan and the man is Wood's dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby. Dr. McKeeby never dressed up like an Iowa farmer and Nan never dressed up like a farmer's wife. Neither of them stood in front of the house in Eldon. Wood painted studies of all three subjects separately and merged them when he painted what would become American Gothic.

So what does this have to do with kitchen design? Everything and nothing.

Google Earth is another Google project and it's a community-generated 3D map of the world. So if we start in Google Earth, this might make a little more sense. Bear in mind that his is all animated in my presentation.

If I zoom in on the convention center as shown in Google Earth, you can see that it's a 3D model. That model and the rest of the models in Google Earth were rendered in Google SketchUp.

 So let's pop up the street to the Art Institute of Chicago, where Grant Wood's American Gothic still hangs.

And finally, let's zoom down to Eldon, IA. Eldon has no 3D models yet, but that will be fixed soon enough. [Edited to add, as of 4/28/10 The American Gothic House IS on Google Earth now --PA]

OK, back to Chicago now.

I wanted to recreate the house in Grant Wood's painting and I wanted to make it as accurate as possible. I poked around on Google for a couple of weeks and I found the property records for the famous house on the corner of Burton Street in Eldon, IA.

On that property record, I found a measured foot print of the house. It was some significant progress.

I dug around some more and I found a bunch of photos of the house, and it seemed that each one showed me a detail I was missing. I amassed quite a collection of photos.

I even found and old newspaper clipping that showed me the back of the house.

So because I'm working in the amazing SketchUp, I imported that foot print I found as a .jpg, scaled it and then built my house right on top of it. Here's the footprint, in scale and on the ground.

I then imported a bunch of reference images and stacked them at the back of my model. I'd delete them later, but by having my references in front of me while I worked, I could see what I was aiming for at all times.

So with the house drawn and my references hidden away, I ended up with this.

Using the tools in SketchUp and my reference photos, I could calculate the pitch of the roof in the photos, I could recreate the columns on the porch and most amazingly of all, I could recreate that Gothic window.

Keep in mind that I drew all of this from scratch so far and I used only the functions available in the free version of SketchUp. By drawing everything to scale and by recreating the house almost exactly, it's now an acceptable model for Google Earth. My American Gothic house is in the process of being positioned in Google Earth and in about another week, Eldon will get its first 3D building.

OK, so the outside's drawn. Now what? Grant Wood's Dinner for Threshers provides a glimpse of what the American Gothic house would have looked like in its day.

I want to do something different though. This is after all, my story. So I went with something a little more contemporary but still grounded in place.

Knock on the screen door and take a peek.

Here's my interior renovation. I used Kraftmaid  cabinetry in a maple slab door called Avery. The stain color is Honey Spice and Kraftmaid's catalog is available in the 3D Warehouse now. And. It's. Free.

The appliances are by GE Monogram, the furniture is by Thos. Moser, the faucet's from Brizo and all of those components are available to download through Google's 3D Warehouse.

I made the gantry that hangs from the ceiling at the suggestion of Chuck Wheelock from Johnny Grey. He actually suggested a pitchfork but I liked that Gothic window shape so much that I repeated it as a light fixture.

If I zoom up to the ceiling and look down, you can see that the table and chairs are sitting on a braided rug. I made that from a .jpg image I found on the internet. It's now a texture on a three dimensional image instead of a photo. The floor too started out as a photograph of a pile of lumber that I morphed into texture for the floor.

Recreating the American Gothic house and then renovating the interior was a lot of fun and a lot of work. I could not have done it the way I did it with any other rendering program out there. SketchUp's not locked behind a wall of proprietary software. One of the reasons I love it so much is that it's fully integrated with the rest of the internet and I'm limited by my imagination alone.

So with that said, let's make some videos!

All thanks go to Mark Johnson and Susan Prater from Kraftmaid; Bart Frost from Kraftmaid; Alex Oliver, Mike Tadros and Ann Savino from Igloo Studios; Eric Schimelpfenig from Sketch This!; Chris Cronin from Google and as always Peter Saal who got this whole ball rolling last year. You can download your own copy of Google SketchUp here. While you're downloading software, take Google Earth for a spin too.